Wednesday, July 14, 2010

ENTRY # 7 - Stress-Bullets

Short Description of a Bullet: an awful projectile that you should avoid at all costs.

A warped sense of humor is one of my survival techniques. Sometimes, it helps me dodge the stress-bullet.

When a person learns that they have Addison's Disease, there is a awkward time-frame when a newly diagnosed household goes a bit out of whack. Everyone in the house now knows a little about this weird disease that no one else has even heard of, so there's no readily available outside assistance to help them understand their new circumstances. Most importantly, everyone living with the Addison's patient has clearly been told that STRESS might kill their loved one!! Augh! Stress!!! How do we suddenly become a family who can avoid a messy life filled with stress?

After my diagnosis, for a long while, I could find no one in the medical field who could truly explain the details of Addison's Disease. I had this label slapped on me with a clear warning, it simply stated; Avoid Stress - it's your arsenic. What? I have ALWAYS lived with stress! A lot of stress! Is this why I had nearly died before they discovered I had Addison's Disease and gave me some little nasty tasting pills that helped me sit upright once again? No one wanted to answer questions. The doctors were not comfortable with talking about it. Later, I discovered that they could not have been in a worse position to give me advice on this rare turns out that I was the first Addison's patient they had ever diagnosed or treated. In this case, ignorance is not bliss.

One of the doctors told me that I could handle stress emotionally, like usual, but I might suddenly find my body slipping into shock. Is this a bad joke? This was extremely upsetting, but I better not get too upset or I might be pushing up daisies. They explained that the "stress" mostly applied to any physical injuries or sicknesses my body might have trouble fighting because it lacked adrenaline, but that emotional stress was a danger as well, and it could not be ignored. Great. This meant that my immediate family initially saw me as this ticking time bomb. "Here comes mom...Hurry, everybody SMILE!"

After getting this very odd diagnosis, for a while, we didn't know how to live "normally." We improvised with joking around. Well, to be honest, I was the only one joking around about it and my husband would get very angry. He didn't seem to think that any of this was very funny. I guess I had let myself forget about being so sick that I had officially coded. I needed to forget, at least for a while. Maybe I needed to take a little side trip to "Denial-Land," but he didn't want to pack his bags and accompany me.

I remember hearing my husband admonish our daughters, "Don't leave those dirty dishes in the sink! We don't want your mother to get too stressed out! Clean up after yourself!." I'd overhear these moments and would be slightly irritated. He was busting his rear, but I didn't want to be "used" as the chore weapon. So, I would take my daughters aside and tell them that their dad needed more tender-loving-care than I did at this point. He was a nervous wreck. This man, who had previously thrived on adding to my stress had been put in an Addison's cage! What a gift! I would crack up to myself...all women should be so lucky. Soon, the girls would hear the rant about the dishes and catch on, "Dad, it's your night to do the dishes, so get to it or the stress of seeing a dirty kitchen might make mom blow to bits." He began to see the light. It just took him a bit longer than us three girls.

Yes, at times, my family has learned to laugh in the face of this disease, but we are under no illusions. I've seen the heartbreaking stories of others who have this disease and who are left with devastation from the effects; for them, there is no humor to be found. I have faced death on multiple occasions, but I must have moments of laughter. Let's face it, for many families with Addison's Disease, especially the ones who discovered their disease by traumatic circumstances, well, they are ALL left badly shaken and are trying to cope in their own way.

I worried about my kids - I wanted them to live as normal as possible. So, I began to joke with them about my condition. I'd say, "Well, you better think about going out with that boy because I am a potentially exploding mom and my detonator is STRESS. Please don't detonate me!" And we'd fall into a fit of hysterical laughing with awful exploding sounds and my own theatrical version of blowing up.
Then, there's the other most inappropriate joke, "Don't shoot the stress-bullet."

When I was first diagnosed, I could not stand the tippy toes dancing around in our house. No one knew how to interact anymore, let alone speak their firmly held mindset. It began to be infuriating. Avoiding stress was actually creating a mountain of pent-up stress. Everyone not being themselves created more stress than anything. Everyone was confused; none of us knew how to handle this diagnosis. Therefore, I believe this is another area of help that people newly diagnosed with Addison's should be with daily life adjustments and a better understanding of what happens to an Addisonian's body during times of tremendous stress. There should be talking points on all kinds of stress and what each kind could mean to the person with malfunctioning adrenals. Mostly, it's physiological stress that can cause a life-threatening Addisonian Crisis, but there ARE emotional stresses that are taxing to the body and that means it affects the person with Addison's in a negative way.

Anyone who has gone through an intense emotional moment does clearly understand that they are under more stress - they feel it. Emotional stress is not easy to hide. We've all seen the person at work who comes in super stressed-out; later that day, at the water-cooler, everyone is whispering about how clearly they can see that there is p-r-o-b-l-e-m. That is stress. My point is...stress IS a part of daily life. Within a family, it is unavoidable.

Eventually, thank God, my family saw that they could still be a complete butt-head and I would survive. Now, I won't tell a fib, there have been ugly moments that probably could have been avoided and these have caused me enough stress and negative impact to force me to double my medications and knock my body off-whack severe enough for me to have a very difficult time functioning. If your pride is injured, it is double-injured after your body starts to fail you. Talk about frustration!!! Once I feel the heart-rate start to rise and it won't come down with rest or when I feel my blood-pressure dipping so low that my wavy-head returns, I am required to increase my daily dose of hydrocortisone. Truthfully, the necessity makes me irritated with my body, but I do the right thing so I can enjoy optimal health. I never-ever-never liked to take any medications, but the alternative is not very likable either.

My kids have been such incredible people. They have added delightful fun and challenges to my life. Every day has sweetness because of my daughters. Both are young, intelligent and incredible women. We've had amazing moments together. My husband of 24 years has done his personal best to be supportive in ways he can offer, yet he has managed to nicely maintain his own life and independence through the years. It is truly a blessing to have a spouse who is loving, compassionate and dedicated to the marriage so that you can both enjoy your short time on earth together and have as little stress as possible.

Now, for a more difficult issue to tackle for a person suffering with Addison's Disease. If you have this medical condition, then you need to create a lifestyle that is as stress free and as healthy as is possible. This does NOT mean that you must take it easy or not have fun. To the contrary, you need to enjoy life more than ever before. Tomorrow IS today!! Before Addison's joined my life, I had been a Type-A personality; it took lying flat on my backside for months and confronting death, repeatedly, before I would accept my new circumstances. Changes were needed. Today, I still can meet a demanding schedule and take high pressured situations, but not on a relentless basis, as I previously did. A diagnosis like this requires some serious rethinking and reorganization.

A person with Addison's disease already has too many real soap opera battles to endure - those are not by choice, it's part of having a serious, rare condition. I do not like extra drama in my life. But, life is one BIG DRAMA after another. Period. However, if you have someone in your life who is causing constant turmoil and unusual stress by their selfish actions, then whether you have Addison's or not, perhaps you should consider the ramifications of their negative presence in your life.

Take care of yourself and you'll be able to live a fuller life and be able to share meaningful love with people who truly love and care about you, with consistent and authentic actions and words. Are you living with a disturbing amount of stress and heartache? If so, step out of the circle and start examining your own contributions to living with non-essential stresses. Is someone a stress-bullet to you? That person might be a son, a husband, a wife or a best-friend...if the relationship is dysfunctional and full of destructive actions that directly impact your health, quit accepting excuses for their destructive behavior and start protecting yourself. If they care enough, they will do what is necessary so you both can share a healthy relationship. You can't change people, but you can change your own situation and you do have complete control over your emotional connections. If the connection to this person is detrimental to your health, then loosen or cut the connection. Now, what about your connection to yourself? Are your own actions good or bad to your health? How can you improve?

A diagnosis of adrenal issues can be complicated, but don't let the label define you. As for me, I don't want to live THROUGH life's calendar events...I want to LIVE and EXPERIENCE life's events. That is why you should make each day count. LIVE - don't just exist. Years do not count for much. Have you ever heard about graveyard stones? Topsoil people walk around and observe each buried person's birth date and death date. But, those two dates are not enough to represent our lives - our existence is better defined by the unmarked "in between" time period - also known as "the dash." Make your unmarkable dates the most remarkable times of your life. For all of us, our starting line and our finishing line are blips - the memorable part is our movement through life. What is the significance of your movements? Are you actually moving or existing? And remember, you don't even have to be capable of being able to physically move in order to really live. Yes, working body parts is super nice, but there are plenty of people who have a healthy body, but are perpetually reclined. Others might be forcibly reclined, yet they could be the most lively souls you'd ever meet.

So, whatever your physical state...enjoy life. Find the parts you can enjoy and start savoring. Don't forget to laugh. Work at it. Read books with humor. Watch a funny movie. Listen for jokes and appreciate our innate desire to be lighthearted. Heck, sometimes I am so dang funny that I laugh at my own jokes. All by myself. Really. Quit trying to be so "appropriate" and enjoy life while dodging your own stress-bullets.

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